The arrival of Earth Day is the perfect opportunity to reflect on the work EPA does to protect the health of Americans and the environment. Early last summer, the President announced his Climate Action Plan calling on the federal government to work together with states, tribes, cities, industries, consumers and the international community to address one of the greatest challenges of our time.
Over the past year, one of our top priorities has been addressing our changing climate, so let me fill you in on our progress so far on the many important steps we are taking to cut harmful greenhouse gas pollution.
Power Plants – Last September, EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy signed the proposed Carbon Pollution Standards for New Power Plants . Based on current trends in the power sector and available pollution control technology, the proposal will protect public health and address climate change while ensuring reliable, affordable, and clean power for American businesses and families. It will also ensure that power companies investing in new fossil fuel-fired power plants – which often operate for more than 40 years – will use technologies that limit emissions of harmful carbon pollution. The agency is now taking public comment on the proposal until May 9.
As that work continues, this coming June we will be proposing Carbon Pollution Guidelines for Existing Power Plants. There has been a tremendous amount of public interest in our efforts, and we have sought input from an enormous range of perspectives – from the 11 public listening sessions the EPA hosted last fall, to the meetings we held with more than 300 hundred groups including, states, tribes, industry, labor, business, and environmental and health advocates – and many others. The information we have received through this process has been extremely valuable, and I very much look forward to further conversations and feedback after we’ve issued the proposal.
Transportation – The President’s plan also calls on EPA and the Department of Transportation to build on the historic progress made by the national cars program for model years 2012-2025 that will effectively double fuel economy while saving families an estimated to be $8,000 over the lifetime of a 2025 car or truck.
On February 18th, President Obama called for further action: to improve the fuel efficiency of American trucks – bolstering energy security, responsibly cutting carbon pollution, and supporting manufacturing innovation, all while saving Americans money. He directed EPA and the Department of Transportation to develop the next phase of medium and heavy-duty vehicle fuel efficiency and greenhouse gas standards by March 2016. These standards will build on the phase one standards issued in 2011 that will save vehicle owners and operators an estimated $50 billion in fuel costs and save a projected 530 million barrels of oil.
Methane and Hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs) – Methane and HFCs are two potent greenhouse gases. EPA collaborated across the federal government to help develop the recently released comprehensive methane strategy [http://www.whitehouse.gov/blog/2014/03/28/strategy-cut-methane-emissions]. On HFCs, the Agency is currently planning rulemakings to encourage private sector investment in climate-friendly HFC alternatives.
Energy Efficiency – The President’s Plan calls for buildings to cut waste and become at least 20 percent more energy efficient by 2020. Partnership programs, like EPA’s ENERGY STAR, are helping achieve this goal. In ENERGY STAR’s first 20 years, we estimate that our partners and individuals have prevented more than 1.8 billion metric tons of greenhouse gas emissions while saving about $230 billion on utility bills. The incredible progress that we’ve made so far provides a strong foundation to unlock the enormous potential for increased energy efficiency – and saving families and businesses money! – in the future.
All of these actions are critically important to the protection of Americans’ health and the environment today and for future generations, and I’m confident that the work we’re undertaking now to fulfill the President’s Climate Action Plan will be cause for Earth Day celebrations in the years to come.
As EPA does its part, I know that millions of Americans are also making a difference in their communities – helping to clean the air, water and land. Whether it’s by recycling, riding public transportation or a bicycle, adjusting thermostats or doing your part to educate others about the risks of climate change and air pollution, everything makes a difference. We are in this together!
The President’s Climate Action Plan is available at: http://www.whitehouse.gov/sites/default/files/image/president27sclimateactionplan.pdf